Jury Acquits Officers Who Beat Homeless Man to Death

Fullerton, Calif., case hinged on graphic surveillance video
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 13, 2014 6:38 PM CST
Officers Walk After Killing Homeless Man in Calif.
Former Fullerton police officers Jay Cicinelli, left, and Manuel Ramos listen during their trial over the death of Kelly Thomas, Jan. 8, 2014 in Santa Ana, Calif.   (AP Photo/Orange County Register, Joshua Sudock, Pool)

Two former California police officers were acquitted today in the death of a homeless man after a violent struggle with officers that was captured on surveillance video. It was a rare case in which police officers were charged with a death involving actions on duty. In the death of Kelly Thomas, former Fullerton police officer Manuel Ramos was acquitted of second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter; former Cpl. Jay Cicinelli was acquitted of involuntary manslaughter and excessive use of force. A third officer is awaiting trial, and three others were not charged.

Cincinelli embraced his lawyer and put his face in his hands as the verdict concluded. Outside court, Thomas's parents condemned the verdict. "Just horrified," Cathy Thomas said. "He got away with murdering my son. ... So I guess it's legal to go out and kill now." Ron Thomas said the defense "lied ... continuously" about his son's character, such as his drug use. A surveillance video played at the trial showed the police threatening Thomas when he refused to answer questions, then swatting him with batons when he ran away and calling for backup as they struggled to cuff him. Thomas' death led to days of protests in Fullerton, a Southern California college town, forced the recall of three City Council members, and led the police chief to step down. Click for more on the story. (More police brutality stories.)

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